Naming Original Folders

by Wren McMains
(updated 8/03/2008)

(This is one of many pages of tips on Organizing Your Images.)

Update:  For years when I got a new camera, I usually sold the old one or basically stopped using it, so including the camera name in my original folders seemed to make sense. Now I'll often shoot with two cameras at once and instead of having the images in different folders, I'd like all the images shot on one day to be together. If the clocks in the cameras are set to within a second of each other, I can sort by date/time taken and all the images will be in (about) the order I took them. My current recommendation for folder names: your initials, the year, and a suffix to order the folders. I've just switched to folders named: wm08a, wm08b, etc. (I suggested this scheme for my wife years ago when she got her first camera, I probably should have followed my own advice then.)

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  1. I like keep the names of my folders with original images fairly short.


    In the window above we see a list of the almost 70 folders in a folder named "2005", and if you look at the green highlights you'll see is under a folder named "Cam", under a folder named "Org" in a folder named "Albums".
  2. I keep my images under folders at the top level of my various hard drives (not in "Pictures" folders down under "Documents and Settings" (or "Users" in Vista). I do this for two reasons: (1) It makes it easy to find after clicking on "Computer" and then a drive (especially important with multiple drives, it makes all the drives consistent. (2) You can share the top level of the drive and access any folder (except those now protected by MS) from another machine. Makes transferring images from your laptop much easier.
  3. I always call this top level folder "Albums", just because the letter "A" sorts near the top of an alphabetical listing. If you want to use some other name you like better (like "Pictures") I recommend you prefix the name with a special character that is legal in a file/folder name and will sort before alpha-numeric characters (e.g., "#Pictures" or "_Pictures"). If you use a name like this it will still sort near the top of a list of folders and you can click on it without scrolling.
  4. If I was following my own advice, we wouldn't expect to see any images in this folder of "2005" folders, so these images probably belong somewhere else. No matter how well you keep things organized, when you're in a hurry some images will always end up in the wrong place. But, hopefully if you have a good logically structure for storing your images they'll still be near where they belong and someday when you have time, you can put them where they really belong.
  5. My original folder names indicate the camera I used, the year and a suffix (I use letters) to indicate the sequence.
  6. In 2005 I was basically using two cameras, a Nikon D70 (indicated by "nd70") and a Nikon D1X (whose folders here are indicated by "nikon" since in 2004 and early 2005 it was the only Nikon camera I was using).
  7. No matter what naming conventions you choose, you'll find ways to improve them over time. I now name folders with images taken with my D1X something like "nd1x-08a" but I didn't want to change naming conventions in the middle of a year after I had already created a lot of backup CDs and labelled them with names like "nikon05a". I'll always keep these folders named like this because it allows me to tie them to their backups.
  8. I've now sold my D70 and have a D200 and a D300 for which I use folder names like "nd21-08a" and "nd31-08a". (Trying to keep the names short, I used "d2" instead of "d200", but I added "1" to my naming convention because I thought there might be a chance I would get a second D200 body at some point. (I bought a D300 instead when they came out.)
  9. You'll notice that I ended up with a LOT of folders in 2005. This is because the laptop I had at the time could only write CDs, and not DVDs so I limited myself to what would fit on a CD.
  10. You'll also notice that when I started to run out of letters, instead of naming folders with names ending in w, x, y, z, and then aa, ab, ac, etc. Instead I used names like w, xa, xb, xc, etc. so that the folders would sort alphabetically. Now that I'm using DVDs, hopefully I won't have that problem again ... until I get a 24 Mpix camera :)
  11. In addition to the Nikon folders you'll see a few other folders here. The "jam05a" and "jam05b" folders probably belong here ... they are pictures my wife took with her camera during 2005. I'm not sure exactly what's in the "China" and JPG folders, but if they're not pictures we took with one of our cameras I like to keep them not in folders under Original/Cameras (Org/Cam) but in folders still organized by year, but under "Assorted Images" (Org/AsrtImg or Data/AsrtImg) on some drive where I have room. This is where I keep images I get from other sources during a year. The folder name tells me who gave me the images and maybe in what month in the case of someone who gives me a pile of images more than once in a year.
  12. The reason I keep them under "Assorted Images" (AsrtImg) instead of Cameras (Cam) is that I will usually want to use a different backup strategy for these images.
  13. When we discuss backup strategies, we'll talk more about SyncToy, but as you can see in these screen-shots one of the big advantages of the short folder names is that it makes it much easier to read the preview report (which shows what SyncToy is about to do) ...


    The screen-shot above is the preview as produced. By clicking and dragging at the column boundaries (pointed to by the arrows), because my folder names are short I am able to see complete folder paths making it easy to see exactly what SyncToy is about to do ...


    We'll talk more about SyncToy on other pages, but it's a WONDERFUL tool for duplicating the changes made on one drive onto another drive. Here we were synchronizing the Org/Cam tree on this system's drive E with a copy on a network drive (on another machine) which was mounted on this machine as drive Y. As you can see it analyzed over a 140,000 files containing almost 600 GIGA bytes and found only 13 MB it needed to copy to synchronize the two trees. It did all of this in just under 2.5 minutes. Amazing!

Bottom Line:  Use names for the folders that make sense to you, but keep them fairly short. I highly recommend using the year in the name and limiting the number of images in each folder to what will fit on a CD or DVD.

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